Volvo Amazon: The perfect rally car for the Canada 5000

By Dave S. Clark

When you first lay eyes on a stock Volvo Amazon, it may not scream ‘rally car.’ Compared to the sports cars that the British, Japanese and Americans were making at the time, it doesn’t look very sporty and certainly by 1970, when production wrapped up after a 14 year run, it looked quite dated. The Volvo Amazon, also known as the 122S, seems to have borrowed styling cues from early 1950s Chevrolets and Chryslers and could be a two-thirds scale version of those cars mashed together.

So why did I choose this car for the Canada 5000? The simple answer is because of its pedigree. It doesn’t look much like a rally car or a sports car, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it had an incredible run during its time. Not only did an Amazon win the Shell 4000 twice, in 1964 and 1965, it also lays claim to three class wins, a second overall finish, a third overall finish and two fourth overall finishes. Continue reading “Volvo Amazon: The perfect rally car for the Canada 5000”

Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: A road trip like no other

By Dave S. Clark

Planning your Iceland Ring Road itinerary? Here’s why you should get excited – great roads, amazing scenery and friendly people make Iceland the perfect road trip destination. My wife Karlie, who writes the Miss Wanderlust blog, and I spent 10 nights in Iceland and were able to go around the entire Ring Road, and saw a good chunk of the beautiful little country with the exception of the West Fjords and the Highlands.

Our Ring Road itinerary wasn’t perfect but that’s the great thing about having a car. If you want to get moving, you pack up and go. Before heading to Iceland, we made a 10-night itinerary and booked our accommodations as we were going in June, just before the peak of high season.

The itinerary:

Day 1 and 2: Reykjavik – Adjusted to jet lag, explored downtown and went up Hallgrimskirkja. We stayed at this well-located Airbnb apartment. We also met up with Inga from Tiny Iceland who really made our stay awesome. If you’re going to Iceland, get in touch with Inga!  Continue reading “Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: A road trip like no other”

Muzej Vazduhoplovstva (Belgrade Aviation Museum) showcases aeronautic rarities, wreckages

By Dave S. Clark

If you’re flying in or out of Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport and have a strange curiosity with the odd, old and decrepit, or with aviation or architecture, you’ll be intrigued by the Belgrade Aviation Museum (Muzej Vazduhoplovstva), just steps away from the airport’s main terminal.

A few minutes walk from the departure’s lounge, sits the giant UFO-shaped monstrosity that houses the museum. The geodesic oddity is worth a look itself. As I mentioned in my post on communist architecture in New Belgrade, I have a fascination with these types of structures that many write off as gaudy. I was in awe of it. I wanted to live inside it. After taking in the bizarre shape of the museum itself, I spent a good 20 minutes walking around the grounds, admiring all of the aeronautic relics that are sprinkled around the building for the outdoor exhibit.  Continue reading “Muzej Vazduhoplovstva (Belgrade Aviation Museum) showcases aeronautic rarities, wreckages”

Introducing the Canada 5000

By Dave S. Clark

I’m very excited to announce a project that I’ve been working on for the past few months – The Canada 5000.

The Canada 5000 is part history project – recounting the famous Shell 4000 Rally races that ran across Canada in the 1960s. It’s part road trip – following various routes of the original Shell 4000 Rally, but stretching it out to 5000 miles across nine Canadian provinces. It’s part car rebuild – we’ll be driving a 1967 Volvo 122S, so I’ll be taking a non-running 48-year-old Swedish sedan and bringing it back to life so that it can make this journey. It’s part writing project – I’ll be documenting the whole experience and interviewing the drivers and co-drivers who ran the original rally. It’s part fundraiser – my partner in this project Dave Myers and I will be raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease. Continue reading “Introducing the Canada 5000”

New Belgrade a utopia of communist architecture

By Dave S. Clark

Despite being born many miles away from communism and being too young too know anything about politics when many of the communist countries fell, I’ll be the first to admit I have a peculiar fascination with the ideology and the states who were ruled by it.

Part of that fascination is due to the years I spent as a journalist in Canada, where I was able to write about what I wanted to and criticize freely those who I felt should be criticized. It is hard for me to grasp living in a society that not only wouldn’t allow that but would punish someone for that. I often wondered what else was truly different under communism and what daily life was actually like. These interests played a part in my travels to Cuba, China, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary and all of the former Yugoslav states except Slovenia.  Continue reading “New Belgrade a utopia of communist architecture”

Sampling switchbacks from the World Cup Rally and Liege-Sofia-Liege in Kotor, Montenegro

By Dave S. Clark

There are many reasons to go to the ancient town of Kotor, Montenegro. It sits on a unique, deep blue fjord-like bay and is surrounded by mountains jutting up from every shoreline. The tight lanes of the Byzantine walled city are a blast to explore and get lost in. It’s the best place to get a pizza doused in ketchup. And it’s also home to one of Europe’s most scenic drives.

The drive is a 25-switchback marathon rising above the towns of Kotor and Tivat. It’s the best possible spot to be able to fully appreciate the Bay of Kotor’s beauty. I could probably pass on the views of the cheap looking resort town of Tivat, but that’s not why you drive up the switchbacks. The quality of this drive isn’t a secret. It was a regular fixture in the Leige-Sofia-Leige rally race, a 1960s endurance rally that ran from Belgium to the capital of Bulgaria, then back again. In 1970, it was a tricky part of the route for the Daily Mirror World Cup Rally, which saw drivers race from London, all across Europe, board a ship in Portugal, gather their cars in Brazil and continue to race all the way to Mexico City. This 16-kilometre stretch was a small but memorable section of the 16,000+ kilometre event. The first road along this route was built in the 1880s by the Habsburgs and near the top, there is a decrepit customs house, that once served as the border between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Montenegro. But now, its all a part of Montenegro.  Continue reading “Sampling switchbacks from the World Cup Rally and Liege-Sofia-Liege in Kotor, Montenegro”

Tempting fate in a rusty Subaru GL

By Dave S. Clark

I have a weakness for cheap cars. Cheap vintage cars especially, but really any cheap crap can. They are fun, I don’t care if I wreck them and they are the main reason I’ve owned about 20 cars so far in my life. I also have a weakness for the Whiteshell Provincial Park, where I basically grew up as a kid. In 2004, those two weaknesses collided in an ill-fated journey.

At the time, I was a broke journalism student, wanting to get away for a little summer break and show my favourite spot in the world to my then-girlfriend Karlie. What little money I did have was tied up in my Nissan 240sx, which I was swapping an SR20DET into.  I was eager to show her the cottage where I had spent all my summers as I child and take her on our first major road trip together. The only concern was I was having loads of problems troubleshooting the freshly installed engine, which was only running on three of its four cylinders.  I had two options: not go, or drive my very beat up winter beater, an early ’80s Subaru GL. Or maybe it was a DL. I’m not sure, but what mattered was that it was a wagon, rusty, smelly and possibly not worth every last dollar of the $400 purchase price. Continue reading “Tempting fate in a rusty Subaru GL”

Book Review: Mongol Rally – Three Weeks into the Unknown

mongol-rally-book-review

By Dave S. Clark

Completing the Mongol Rally is a monumental task and because of the book Mongol Rally – Three Weeks into the Unknown, it’s now an experience that is written in permanent marker on my bucket list.

Anyone who participates in the event has to be slightly insane for a number of reasons. First off, it starts in London and ends in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, which can be anywhere from 13,000 KM to 16,000 KM. Needless to say, it would be a taxing drive. But as the book illustrates, it isn’t solely the distance, the brutal terrain and the terrible or non-existent roads that make it tough. It’s the countless border crossings and police checkpoints that make the race a challenge.

On top of that, it’s basically the Chump Car of long distance rally races, meaning you’re required to do it in a crap can of a vehicle. When the rally is over, you’re required to turn the vehicle over and have it auctioned for charity, so you don’t want to invest in it too heavily.  Continue reading “Book Review: Mongol Rally – Three Weeks into the Unknown”

Classic car spotting in the former Yugoslavia

By Dave S. Clark

Some countries have cars that are synonymous with each other – Porsche, BMW and Mercedes with Germany, Ferrari and Lamborghini with Italy, the Big Three with the USA and Yugo with Yugoslavia.

Having made two trips to the former Yugoslavia and seeing every former state except Slovenia, I’ve had ample time to spot many Yugos and other classics that have been able to stay on the road. If you enjoy classic car spotting like I do and are heading to the Balkans, you’ll be excited to know that Yugos won’t be the only vintage (or vintage looking) car you’ll see.

Here are the most common classics I spotted in the region:  Continue reading “Classic car spotting in the former Yugoslavia”

Memories of the Edmonton Indy

By Dave S. Clark

Summer is in full swing in Edmonton and that means festivals galore, although with one big absence again – the Edmonton Indy – which waved its final checkered flag in 2012.

Even though I didn’t go to the first Edmonton Indy in 2005, it was responsible for getting me hooked for the rest of its eight-year run. I live less than six kilometers from the now-closed Edmonton City Centre Airport and I distinctly remember waking up that first weekend to the sound of race cars ripping around a distant track. I had never been a Champ Car fan, so I hadn’t bought tickets for the race, but all weekend long I was taunted by the sounds of Cosworth turbo V8 engines.

In 2006, my buddy Joel and I decided to get general admission tickets and despite not having a place to sit down or any spot to get a really good point of view, we had a damn good time. The Champ Cars were exciting and fun to watch and the support races were just as good, if not better.  Continue reading “Memories of the Edmonton Indy”